What is Alkaline Water?

What is Alkaline Water and what does it do?

Consistent consumption of clean water is essential for the proper maintenance and generation of cells, tissues and organs within our bodies. It helps us in regulating body temperature, moistens the tissues in the eyes, nose and mouth, as well as transporting critical nutrients and oxygen to our cells (adult human bodies consist of 60% water). But there have been growing trends surrounding something known as ‘alkaline water’ and the potential health benefits.

In this article, the team at zazen Alkaline Water dive into what alkaline water is, what it does within your body, the potential health benefits, and address any risks, dangers or side effects causing concern.

Well, to put it into perspective, the ‘alkaline’ refers to the pH level in water (a measure between 0 and 14 to gauge how acidic or alkaline the water is). It is generally understood that an overly acidic body, known as acidosis, can cause disease. A tendency toward acidity is increasingly common today because of the highly processed foods, drugs and acidic drinks consumed (and because people are dehydrated). There is a growing movement toward drinking alkaline water in order to become more alkaline or balanced and to take advantage of the potential health benefits.

Many alkaline water products produce extremely high alkaline levels of 8.5 – 10 and even 11pH after ionization! There is the belief that more is better. But it is not that simple! If it were this simple, then in terms of water you could put one teaspoon of bi carb soda in a glass of water and you will get an alkaline benefit in the body. But again, it’s only half the story!

Too alkaline is just as bad as too acidic.

To understand why alkaline water has been heralded as a health miracle, you must first understand the alkaline effect, a naturally occurring process in the body. It looks something like this:

The Alkaline Effect Part 1

  • The stomach releases hydrochloric acid (HCL) to break down food and water for nutrients.
  • Hydrochloric acid would burn the stomach so to protect it the body also releases bicarbonate – alkaline buffers to neutralise the hydrochloric acid (into the blood around the stomach and surrounding areas).
  • The body does not release as much HCL when you consume acidic foods and fluids.

  • Released Alkaline buffers come with a bonus. They act as anti-oxidants.
  • An anti-oxidant can neutralise free radicals (toxins) and acids in the body.
  • This can prevent or slow cell damage in the body.

  • Alkaline foods and water require more HCL to break down, which in turn needs more alkaline buffers to be released.
  • Most people believe that flooding the system with EXTREMELY HIGH alkaline water will increase the number of neutralised free radicals therefore improving health. This is incorrect, read on to find out why!

The Alkaline Effect Part 2

  • Flooding the system with alkaline food and water requires more hydrochloric acid and more alkaline buffers.

  • If the body doesn’t have enough alkaline minerals (such as calcium) to use as buffers, it will steal them from the bones.
  • This can lead to other long term issues and diseases, and throws the body out of balance.

  • The body needs to flush the toxins from all the neutralised free radicals that the alkaline effect has created.
  • The body must be hydrated to flush toxins but high alkaline water alone does not hydrate if it does not contain a balanced range of alkaline minerals.
  • An over-alkaline system without the ability to hydrate can cause significant imbalance in the body and the condition called alkalosis.

Our blood pH is slightly alkaline

By nature, our blood pH is ideally balanced and tuned to be only slightly alkaline. The human body sets about daily to maintain that balance. To emphasise the fact, think about the pH of our blood, which is 7.369. This is only slightly alkaline. Neutral is 7. This is important to note as a measuring stick; to temper our understanding of the alkaline effect; to help us recognise that excessive alkalinity is not ideal when ingesting further ionized alkaline water.

What are the Potential Health Benefits of Drinking Alkaline Water for People with Pre-Existing Conditions?

Dietician Alex Rutkowska states the benefits of alkaline water to be many, including ‘protecting the body's cells from damage, reducing blood pressure, moisturising the skin, anti-aging properties, detoxifying properties, aiding with weight loss, supporting the immune system and cancer prevention.'

Given the information above, and in exploring whether alkaline water is better for you, research has also suggested there are a myriad of potential health benefits in drinking alkaline water for people with certain pre-existing conditions. A 2012 study into the treatment of reflux disease, for example, revealed the consumption of naturally carbonated alkaline water (consisting of an 8.8 pH level) may have worked towards diminishing pepsin, which is the primary enzyme found to cause acid reflux disease. There was also a recent study into how consuming alkaline ionized water created changes with high blood pressure, abnormal blood sugar and lipids resulting in diabetes, and high cholesterol, finding it to have promising signs as one of the ‘accessory therapeutic methods’. And, in 2016, another study into how ionized alkaline water effected the viscosity of blood in adults found certain benefits. Blood viscosity, or its ‘thickness’, will determine how effectively it passes through the body, this is affected heavily by your diet. This study found that of the 100 people included, a noticeable difference in viscosity was recorded between drinking high-pH alkaline water to ‘normal’ pH-level water after exercise-induced dehydration.

Are there any risks, dangers or side effects of drinking ionized alkaline water?

As ionized water should still hold natural minerals, most consider drinking natural alkaline water to be safe. The risks, dangers or side-effects from alkaline are related to overconsumption, which may lead to alkalosis  (the opposite of acidosis), where the body has too little chloride and a disproportionate amount of bicarbonate in the blood. This can lead to mild agitation and symptoms, such as confusion, hand tremors, muscles twitching, nausea, vomiting, and tingling sensations across the face and in extremities.

When asked this question, dietician Alex Rutkowska also stated that, ‘Alkaline water is generally recognised as safe. However, there are several side effects that result from a change in the body's pH. One of them is reducing the natural acidity of the stomach, which, among other things, helps to kill bacteria and expel pathogens from the body. In addition, high alkalinity can cause digestive problems and skin irritation.’

References:

Weidman, J., Holsworth, R.E., Brossman, B. et al. Effect of electrolyzed high-pH alkaline water on blood viscosity in healthy adults. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 13, 45 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-016-0153-8

Hamideh Naghedi-Baghdar, Seyed-Mohammad Nazari, Ali Taghipour, Mohsen Nematy, Sadegh Shokri, Mohammad-Reza Mehri, Tahereh Molkara, Roghayeh Javan Electron Physician. 2018 Mar; 10(3): 6563–6570. Published online 2018 Mar 25. doi: 10.19082/6563

Khowdiary M. (2013). Progress in cancer treatment by orthomolecular, food, and water medicine. Bloomington, IN: Trafford Publishing.

Koufman JA, et al. (2012). Potential benefits of pH 8.8 alkaline drinking water as an adjunct in the treatment of reflux disease. DOI:10.1177/000348941212100702

Kozisek F. (n.d.) Health risks from drinking demineralised water who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/nutrientschap12.pdf

Wang Y-L. (2012). Preliminary observation on changes of blood pressure, blood sugar and blood lipids after using alkaline ionized drinking water.en.cnki.com.cn/Article_en/CJFDTOTAL-SHYI200112005.htm

Weidman J, et al. (2016). Effect of electrolyzed high-pH alkaline water on blood viscosity in healthy adults. DOI:10.1186/s12970-016-0153-8

Wynn E, et al. (2009). Alkaline mineral water lowers bone resorption even in calcium sufficiency. DOI: 10.1016/j.bone.2008.09.007

Henry, Marc; Chambron, Jacques (2013-12-16). "Physico-Chemical, Biological and Therapeutic Characteristics of Electrolyzed Reduced Alkaline Water (ERAW)". Water. 5 (4): 2094–115. doi:10.3390/w5042094.